Using the same cover letter for each job application could be sabotaging your chances of winning a job.
While a resume listing your work experience, education and interests can be used for a number of job interviews, a cover letter needs to be a living document, tinkered and tailored for each job application.
But striking the right balance is essential. Wine Guns for Hire turned to the experts, asking what they look for in a cover letter.
Yalumba Wines recruitment advisor Stuart Hearn says he sees too many “generic” applications. “The more succinct the better,” he says “I always like to see a summary statement that is tailored to the role.”
The veteran recruiter says Yalumba doesn’t generally require a cover letter for people applying for production roles. “We require a cover letter [around 300 words] for a more senior role to address their background and key criteria in the job advertisement.”
He says around 150 words is sufficient for a junior role. “The cover letter needs to reflect the ad.”
1. A tailored, personal approach
Hearn estimates only about 30 per cent of cover letters address the job advertisement.
He says there is room to talk about what the applicant is passionate about.
“The cover letter needs to talk as if they have read the ad and they are talking to me through the letter,” he says.
Wine Victoria chair Angie Bradbury says applicants should avoid falling into the trap of “summarising everything” in the cover letter.
“The cover letter should create a rapport with the reader and demonstrate why you are the right person for the job,” she says.
“Those personalised cover letters show the person has taken the extra effort.”
2. Garnish with passion
Trader House beverage director Leanne Altmann says a cover letter that exhibits some passion for working for the group is important.
Perhaps the applicant has eaten at one of the restaurants or followed their fortunes on their socials or in the media.
“A passion to work in our restaurants, or with our team specifically, adds to the personalisation,” she says.
It doesn’t hurt to be ambitious and declare where, if successful, they might see themselves.
She says that Trader House has a range of formal, casual, retail and event offerings under its umbrella, so there is scope for a range of skill sets – and this room for adaptability or transition is a familiar story across the businesses.
“We do have lots of people who have been working with us for a very long time and they move and develop through training. They look to develop into a new position,” she says.
3. Spelling matters
Angie Bradbury, principal of Bradbury & Co marketing and brand strategy consultancy, says spelling and grammar mistakes are a big red flag for her.
She says it smacks of being “sloppy and lax” and could be a deal breaker.
“I would not interview the candidate,” she says.
Trader House’s Ms Altmann says spelling and grammar do matter, as they may be a pointer to a lack of attention to detail, which could be a problem on the floor of one of their venues.
4. Avoid Dear Sir or Madam
Bradbury says more often than not the job advertisement includes the name of the person who will be handling recruitment, or candidates are directed to apply in writing to a named person.
When that happens, addressing the cover letter to Dear Sir or Madam is a bad move.
Ms Bradbury says it is a big turn off for her.
She says there is so much publicly available information for people passionate about the wine industry to find out how to correctly address job applications. These might include checking the company’s websites, socials, LinkedIn or making a phone call.
Altmann says personalising a cover letter helps applicants stand out from the crowd. She says it is not that hard to find the restaurant manager for a particular venue under the Trader House collective.
Trader House is the umbrella for a celebrated collective of restaurants, retail outlets and venues, which include Cutler & Co., The Builders Arms Hotel, Supernormal, Cumulus Inc., Marion, Meatsmith, Gimlet at Cavendish House and Morning Market.
Also avoid “to whom it may concern” as it’s considered outdated. In the absence of a name, you can address the cover letter to the “hiring manager” or “recruitment manager”.
But the consensus is that in most cases the applicant should be able to locate the correct person so they won’t have this dilemma.
5. Research gives the edge
Ms Bradbury says spending a bit of time looking at the company website, reviews, wine interest websites and social media will give an insight into a business.
Joval Wine Group human resources operations manager Vicky Ly says the group, which employs more than 300 people across the industry from winemaking to distribution, expects an understanding of the group’s culture from applicants.
She says the website talks to Joval’s beliefs and values and the intersection of passion and skill is embodied in its “crafted by hand and heart” motto.
“The cover letter, from my perspective, is the showcase,” Ms Ly says. “We want our winemakers to front our brand. There needs to be the personality, and that needs to come through.”
6. Beware of jargon
Best practice in cover writing suggests that you need to feed in some key words used in the job advertisement into your letter.
But getting the right balance is key.
Candidates need to be wary of stating the obvious. The recruiter expects if you are applying for a job that you are dependable, if you are working in a team that you are a team player, and if you are customer facing that you are friendly and are a people person.
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